By H. Boone Porter
Advent speaks first of Christ’s future coming to judge the world at the end of history, secondly of his historic coming into our world two thousand years ago, and thirdly of his present coming into our hearts and lives. As the season comes to a close, the last two themes tend to attract all our attention. Indeed for many churchpeople in the Anglican tradition, the first theme has hardly ever received attention,even though it is mentioned in both Creeds. For members of certain other Christian groups, on the other hand, Christ’s final coming is a central element in their faith and piety.
One of the changes in spirituality in recent years has been a much wider attention to this very biblical theme of Christ’s return. Many Episcopalians have been surprised to find themselves saying
Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.
A new aspect of the Eucharist comes to life when we think of it as a sign that we are waiting for the day of the Lord’s return. To wait is a quite distinct kind of activity. It means recognizing that someone else is the prime mover or principal actor. It means admitting that we ourselves are in secondary roles, so secondary that we do not know the time schedule. It means living in patience and hope. This is the spirit of much of the Bible, especially of the Psalms which are such a regular part of traditional public and private prayer. This is the spirit in which the New Testament speaks of breaking the bread and drinking the cup until the Lord comes.
This theme of Advent will not go out of season until the Lord has in fact come. All our lives will continue to be in Advent in this sense. Our time, Christian time, is always lived on the brink of eternity. Will history end with a nuclear holocaust, or the total dessication of the environment, or in a dramatic supernatural event? We do not know. It could end in any one of many ways. In any case, mankind lives on borrowed time: history has no guaranteed survival clause. For Christians the good life is the life of those who are always ready to greet the Lord. Are we?
The Rev. H. Boone Porter was editor of The Living Church from 1977 to 1990. This article was published in our December 18, 1977 issue.